June 25, 2018
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Maine won’t achieve success if we cannot cross our political divisions

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Winter State House file photo
By Demi Kouzounas, Special to the BDN

In this time of seemingly endless political division, we all need to take a deep breath, step back and remember the vast majority of us are caring members of our communities who want the best for our children, parents, friends and, yes, ourselves.

Maine is made up of many political parties, and none hold a monopoly over the truth.

We agree Maine must be a place where our children are safe, can stay and be successful, and where we can retire comfortably and affordably. Maine must also be a destination for hard-working people to move and live out their dreams.

Maine will always be these great things, if we do it right and we do it together.

Foremost is keeping Maine safe and secure. That includes being serious about all causes of the opioid crisis. Sadly, we all know someone dear to us who has been afflicted by this epidemic.

Maine medical professionals are leading by avoiding overprescription of painkillers. That is a huge step in the right direction we are all thankful for.

Still, overprescription of opioids is not the only problem. Cheap heroin and synthetic drugs have flooded our state. Some of these drugs are manufactured domestically, while most come across our insecure national borders. We can’t keep our heads in the sand on this — it is literally killing us.

I want to propose developing a system to help the family and friends of those who are addicted seek help by conferring with counselors and addiction specialists. Too many of us are helpless when a family member suffers from addiction, but we do not know where to turn for help. (I have been there myself.) I will be working with our legislators to find ways to provide help to the loved ones of those afflicted by this dreadful disease, which is taking too many of our young away from us.

The most important way to fight the opioid crisis, however, may be improving economic opportunity. When we do not feel connected to a brighter future, we are more likely to become hopeless.

We cannot do this, however, by raising taxes or adding regulations that make businesses leave our state or never come to Maine. We must do it by making government more affordable and efficient, respecting taxpayers, keeping the cost of living and doing business down, and passing along our love for our beautiful and blessed state to our youth.

Part of this is also encouraging work on all fronts. We should not be giving welfare to people who are not injured or disabled. In fact, the last thing we should do is aid and abet generational cycles of poverty when we can enable prosperity. The truth we all know is that work strengthens people, families and communities. That is a Maine tradition we should always be proud of.

The Maine Republican Party supports strong safety nets for those in true need, and we believe people able to work are fortunate and must do so. Our limited financial resources must be spared for those who have not been so lucky.

Finally, to continue Maine’s tradition of “Dirigo” (I Lead) and “The Way Life Should Be,” we must also be out in front on another critical matter — supporting flexible work hours and paid leave, especially for new moms and dads. As is too often the case, and of great concern to me, many of my Democratic friends are pushing for more government mandates that have not worked in the past and won’t work now. Empty promises are not solutions, even if they are good campaign slogans.

A more promising approach would be providing incentives to give workers a paid break when they have a newborn to care for. This can be done effectively, and it would help keep our people here and attract more to our great state.

We can do all these things and more. Sadly, healthy political discourse in Maine and America has become nearly impossible. Too many have forgotten their Republican neighbors are some of the most caring people they know. They are moms, dads, teachers, coaches, nurses, community leaders and people who will be there for their neighbors in times of trouble.

Trust me, we will all be better off if we get back to remembering that. Let’s get to work on it.

Dr. Demi Kouzounas is chair of the Maine Republican Party.

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